For the year 2020, the German umbrella organisation of company health insurance funds (BKK-DV) reported that employees in companies were incapable of working for an average of 18.2 days. In spite of Covid, the value thus decreased slightly compared to 2019 (18.4 days of incapacity). Nevertheless, there is no cause for joy, because the curve, viewed over several years, is rising steadily: In 2010, the figure per person was still 13.9 days of incapacity.
The job hazard analysis is compulsory.
“Since 1996 the employer has been obliged by the German Occupational Safety and Health Act to independently derive the necessary measures for the protection of the employees by means of a job hazard analysis of the working conditions and the associated hazards, and all that to protect the staff," explains Lea Deimel, press officer at the German Federal Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (BAuA).
The design and furnishing of the worksite and the workplace, possible physical, chemical and biological effects, the type and use of work equipment, especially working materials, machines, devices and installations, the design of work and production methods, work processes and working time, the question of sufficient qualification as well as mental stress at the workplace must be analysed among other things (cf. also § 5 para. 3 ArbSchG). The job hazard analysis also includes initiating measures against identified hazards. These must then be reviewed in terms of their usefulness and the job hazard analysis updated. The aim is to counteract occupational accidents and stressful factors in the company in a preventive manner.
The German Employer's Liability Insurance Association for Wood and Metal (BG HM) that is responsible for bicycle repair shops, provides support for the job hazard analysis with a whole series of worksheets (...). They also advise to pay special attention to the following points typical for a bicycle workshops: the possibility of fire (e-bike batteries) and electric shock, the physical strain of lifting and carrying, forced postures, the noise factor, the risk of falling, slipping, tripping and twisting and the handling of hazardous substances. “A job hazard analysis sheet must be available for every oil, lubricant and maintenance product. This is required by law. In the forms, for example, you can read what to do when you get something in your eyes or swallow something," explains Uwe Woell, Managing Director of VSF Service GmbH, a requirement of the professional job hazard analysis.
Measures against physical strains
“With regard to the frequency of sick days in the bicycle industry, the German public health insurance company AOK Bavaria has found that musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) follow immediately behind respiratory diseases, which rank first in the statistics,” explains Maximilian Zoeller, exercise specialist at AOK Bavaria in Munich, for the bicycle trade. “Although the figures refer to employed insured persons of AOK Bavaria, they are probably similar nationwide. When the focus is placed on the duration of the sickness until recovery, MSEs take over the top position. This is immediately followed by the category “Injuries at the workplace”.
“In the bicycle industry, these are mostly minor hand injuries, cuts and puncture wounds as well as small bruises,” Woell from VSF reports from his experience. Dirk Zedler, the publicly appointed and sworn expert and managing director of “Zedler - Institut für Fahrradtechnik und -Sicherheit GmbH”, adds: "Cuts or abrasions are caused by the staples on cardboard boxes or sharp-edged chain wheels, etc. What should neither be neglected are the risks during test rides in road traffic.”
But let's go back to musculoskeletal disorders caused by poor posture: “There are manifold possibilities of prevention. Counselling and training are just as much a part of this as workplace-related measures,” explains Lea Deimel from the BAuA. Typical for the work in the workshop are, for example, back complaints due to forced postures and problems in hands and arms due to knocking, hammering, turning and pressing. Maximilian Zoeller from AOK Bavaria advocates exercises that can be done throughout the day directly at the workplace. He suggests, for example, mobilisation and muscular exercises (...) against wrist complaints. “To make exercise a routine, I recommend setting the timer in your phone to remind you regularly. If you keep it up consistently for a week, you will often see an effect.
If you then realise “It wasn't that exhausting!”, the routine should already have set in.” Responsible retailers equip their workshop in such a way that physical strain is avoided. “An ergonomic workplace design, for example through height-adjustable assembly tables, is probably the best protection against musculoskeletal disorders,” explains movement specialist Maximilian Zoeller. Bicycle expert Zedler sees “height-adjustable vices and centring stands as well as preset torque spanners within easy reach” as further preventive measures. For work on carrier cycles, he considers “lifting platforms, as is common in the motorbike sector, as necessary.”
Lifting, holding, carrying, pulling and pushing in a spine-friendly way is best achieved with the help of cross straps or carrying waistcoats. “E-bikes weigh 23 to 35 kg on average. That’s a different strain on the back than the 15 kg of a bicycle without e-drive," says Uwe Woell, explaining this necessity. “Carrier cycles have also changed the work a lot. The physical strains are really greater, almost all individual components have become heavier. You therefore need a third hand,” adds Dirk Zedler. Bicycles delivered are brought to the workshop for assembly with a transport trolley. “But then they should be lifted out of the box with a helper,” Zedler appeals to the workshop team.
“It is certainly also worthwhile to check the other equipment in the workshop. Some things may no longer be up to date and can be replaced with ergonomically more valuable things. After the purchase, however, it is important that the workshop team actually uses them to protect their physical health,” states Zoeller from AOK Bavaria. “Comfortable floor mats that allow fatigue-free standing throughout the day, sufficient and balanced lighting as well as planning tools that help to control workshop orders” could make the working day more bearable, Uwe Woell from VSF supports the AOK thesis. “In addition, every employee should be provided with personal protection equipment (PPE). This includes safety goggles, ear protection and gloves, but also a helmet for the test ride. The quite subtle but decisive difference lies in the word “personal”. This explicitly does not mean that the entire workshop team shares one ear protection device and one pair of safety goggles. An eyewash station as well as the self-evident first aid box are compulsory.”
Author: Dorothea Weniger